Windows 8.1 Update 1 leaks -- to widespread yawns

Three-week-old version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 will leave you shaking your head; fortunately, another version awaits

A Jan. 14 version of the much-anticipated upgrade to Windows 8.1 has appeared on several pirate download sites. The improvements are, to put it charitably, underwhelming. Variously called Windows 8.1 Update 1, Windows 8.1 GDR 1, Win 8.1.1, and/or Windows 8.1 2014 Update, the three-week-old revision has even fewer changes than expected.

Don't put on sackcloth and ashes just yet for the Windows update known as 9600.16596.WINBLUES14_GDR_LEAN.140114-0237. Russian leak site Wzor already has screenshots posted, purporting to come from a Jan. 26 build, 6.3.9600.16606.140126-2042, featuring some improvements over the Jan. 14 version.

Here are the changes you can see in this leaked Jan. 14 version:

  • Power Down (Shut down, Restart, Sleep) and Search tiles at the top right of the Metro screen, next to the user name. Wzor notes that they only appear on screens wider than 8.5 inches.
  • Right-click context menus for Metro tiles. You don't need to hunt and peck at the bottom of the Metro screen to resize a tile, for example. The context menu allows you to pin a Metro app to the desktop taskbar.
  • A new icon in the upper-left corner of all Metro apps that lets you split (snap), minimize, or close the app. It appears as if the icon sites on a bar that takes up the top part of the Metro screen, which may cause heartburn for any Metro apps that expect to use all of the screen.
  • The desktop taskbar appears (and disappears) from the bottom of Metro app screens. That's new -- and distracting. Thank heaven Microsoft kept its Windows 7-style "Aero" see-through shading for the taskbar, though Aero was banished from the desktop. (I, for one, still mourn its loss.)
  • Built-in font scaling to 500 percent. Wzor notes that 250 percent font scaling is set as the default when you install on a monitor with more than 1,800 vertical pixels.
  • The Metro Start screen's Apps View has a new "by name" sorting layout, with shortcut tiles on the left for each letter of the alphabet. (Help me out here, I'm clutching at straws.)
  • Internet Explorer 11 has a new Enterprise Mode, which according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley is designed to help companies get IE 8-dependent apps "unstuck."

There's been much discussion online about whether Win 8.1.1 will boot to the desktop by default; some people found that their new Win 8.1.1 installations booted to the desktop, while others said it booted to the Metro Start menu. Wzor seems to have nailed the discrepancy by explaining that if you install Win 8.1.1 from scratch on a clean partition on a machine without a touchscreen, you boot to the desktop by default. Those of you installing in a Hyper-V VM can now stop scratching your heads.

There's also been talk in the press that some of the leaked screenshots show Metro apps running on top of the Windows desktop. I tried and tried, but couldn't see any way to do it. I went back to the screenshots and verified that the misguided pundits were looking at a copy of the desktop taskbar floating on top of a Metro app. That's not even close to the same thing.

If you want to try it for yourself, it's easy to find a leaked copy -- but only in 64-bit. Checksums and various links appear on the Polish site (t/h AR). If you want to look at screenshots, try The Verge or (better) Betanews. And of course if you want the latest and greatest, brush up on your Russian and head to Wzor.

This article, "Windows 8.1 Update 1 leaks -- to widespread yawns," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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